Scott Dixon Becomes Five-Time IndyCar Champion After Masterclass Drive at Sonoma
Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi paid a high price for a mistake he made on the opening lap.
Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay may have earned the right to park his Honda racecar in Victory Lane after 85 grueling laps around Sonoma Raceway, but Sunday's IndyCar race was all about one man and one man only: Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, who beat rival Alexander Rossi to win his fifth IndyCar championship.
Rossi made things somewhat easier for the 18-year veteran by running into the back of his teammate Marco Andretti on the opening lap of the race, which resulted in a broken front wing and punctured right-front tire. The collision sent Rossi to the back of the field and forced him to lose a lap after pitting for repairs. From that moment on, Dixon did everything he had to do in order to walk away with the most points, which at times meant controlling his pace and not fighting Hunter-Reay for the win. Doing so would've meant taking unnecessary risks.
A few twists and turns in the shape of yellow flags and safety cars presented Rossi with lukewarm chances to turn his race around, but the damage had already been done early on. A late-race charge by the winner of the 100th Indy 500 saw him climb as high as the top six, but worn tires and overdriving the car forced him to settle with P6 by the time the checkered flag fell. Once it was all said and done, Rossi finished second in the championship with a 58-point gap to Dixon.
"It was unfortunate because I thought we got a good start," Rossi said of the contact with Andretti heading up the hill in Turn 1. "Just two cars going for the same spot type of thing."
"At the end of the day, the (No.) 27 NAPA team did an amazing job of getting us back to a point where we could at least be in contention if something did happen to Scott. I knew it was probably a one percent shot at getting anything done at the end of the day. I just tried to attack it, move up as many positions as we could," Rossi lamented.
Dixon has been described as a role model to aspiring racers and even seasoned competitors due to his uncanny ability to deliver results in ovals and road courses alike. In addition, the 38-year-old Kiwi's physical condition is second to none in terms of athleticism, something which his personal trainer and close friend Jim Leo of PitFit Training previously shared with The Drive during the month of May.
"Man, this is so awesome!" said Dixon, whose five championships leave him behind only one other legend, A.J. Foyt, with seven. "I can't believe that it's actually happened. I can't thank everybody enough for this, it's so cool!"
"The whole race I was thinking about things that were out of our control, cautions that were going to flip the field," said Dixon, whose 44 race wins rank third in IndyCar history. "None of that happened."
"It was a very smooth race, but mentally it was tough and draining. Yeah, it's amazing to be in this situation, fifth championship. What this team has achieved, I'm a very small piece in that whole wheelhouse of what's going on at Chip Ganassi Racing. I feel very lucky to work with the people that I do."
The IndyCar fraternity will now enter a period of silence, in which teams and drivers alike will regroup in order to learn from their mistakes and come back stronger next year. The 2019 season will consist of 17 races and start with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10.